architecture interior design

Spotlight on black owned businesses-home edition

As an interior designer, I love that I’m constantly exposed to designers, artists, and craftsmen from all over the world.  While I work with a few African American people in the Charleston area, I admit that I’ve not made a concerted effort to support local minority-owned small businesses. Like so many others, I am horrified at the many unjust acts committed against people of color in our country. In these uncertain times, moving just a fraction of your purchases to a black business can make an enormous impact. Here are a few local companies and artisans that are committed to making our homes and community a better, more beautiful place.

Iconic Granite & Marble

Offering fabrication and installation of granite, marble, quartz and natural stone countertops in homes and businesses. Iconic Marble & Granite, owned by Cory Steed, has over twenty years experience creating custom kitchens, baths, exterior spaces and more.

Iconic Granite & Marble

Hudson Designs

For well over 30 years, Charles L. Hudson, Jr. AIA, NOMA has been designing custom homes and spaces for commercial and religious projects. His firm, Hudson Designs, with its impressive portfolio, is located in the heart of Johns Island.

Hudson Designs Architect
Hudson Designs

Smithco Services LLC

Husband and wife team, Michael and Cassandra Smith, form Smithco Services LLC. A licensed general contractor, master electrician and master plumber they can handle all your construction needs.

Smithco Services LLC
Smithco Services LLC

Lowcountry Greens

If your yard needs a tune up, contact Tony Spense. Providing landscape design, hardscaping, irrigation and maintenance services, Lowcountry Greens, is committed to providing excellant service at reasonable prices.

Lowcountry Greens

Neema Fine Art Gallery

Meisha Johnson, the owner of this Broad Street gallery, exclusively features original art by Southern African American artist. Alicia Goodwin jewelry, pottery by Winton and Rosa Eugene, and paintings by Ted Ellis and James Denmark are among the seventeen artists that can be found at Neema Fine Art Gallery. A Certified MWBE Woman Owned Business the name Neema translates to favor, grace and prosperity in Swahili.

James Denmark-Neema Fine Art Gallery
James Denmark-Neema Fine Art Gallery

Sweetgrass Basket Makers

One of Lowcountry’s most venerated hand craft is the sweetgrass basket.  Passed down for generations since the 1700s, this art was brought to America through the enslaved people from West Africa. Mary Jackson is one of Charleston’s best known sweetgrass basket artisan and in 2008 was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and a 2010 NEA National Heritage Fellow. Her work is on permanent display at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Local artists include Corey Alston, Tonya Aiken, Mazie Brown, and Chlorissa German. More resources can be found at Mount Pleasant’s Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion or taking a drive North on Hwy. 17 which is known as the ‘sweetgrass basket makers highway’. The Charleston City Market, which is home to over 50 resident Gullah artisans, is great place to find unique, locally produced products.

Chlorissa German Sweetgrass Baskets
Chlorissa German gullah sweetgrass baskets

Mr. H says: We become stronger when all of us stand together-Enjoy!

Artwork charleston

40 years of Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA

The Spoleto Festival USA opens its 40th season today, and the schedule of events promises to be a celebration of the spirit of Charleston, South Carolina.  This year’s itinerary includes Spoleto’s first production of the opera “Porgy and Bess“.  Created by George Gershwin, Dubose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwinwhich in 1934, is set in Charleston.  A number of performances also pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the shootings at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.

Porgy and Bess costumes

The Spoleto Festival USA was conceived by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who sought to establish a counterpart to the Festival dei Due Mondi (The Festival of Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy.  Championed by then Mayor Joe Riley, the Spoleto Festival USA held its inaugural year in 1977.

Spoleto Poster 1977 Christan Thee

Each year a celebration poster is created by a living artist.  This years poster, by Jonathan Green, Harvest Gathering is a vibrant image celebrating Gullah culture.
2016 Spoleto Festival poster Jonathan Green

Check out all the past poster images from the last 40 years at the Spoleto Festival website

1985 Spoleto poster Jasper Johns

While former mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. is not presiding over this years opening events, his Spoleto dedicated legacy to the festival for the last four decades will be celebrated at the 40th Season Celebration Concert.  The concert will be held in the newly renovated Gaillard Center and will be conducted by former Festival Music Director Steven Sloane, with Riley narrating.

Gillard Performance Center

Mr. H says: Life is festival only to the wise-Enjoy!

architecture charleston design history

The Inn at Middleton Place-Charleston, SC

I was fortunate to play tourist in my own town this week at the beautiful 18th century Middleton Place plantation.  Listed as a National Historic Landmark, it is home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens.

Middleton Place terrace garden Middleton Place

We took advantage of the weekly Spring wine stroll along with dinner at the restaurant and an overnight stay at the Inn.

While the gardens are the main attraction, The Inn at Middleton Place, is an extraordinary destination in its own right.  Secluded among tall pines and live oaks along the banks of the Ashley River, the 55 rooms are just a short walk away from the plantation grounds.The Inn at Middleton Place Lodge

Built in 1987, the Inn was designed by W.G. Clark and Charles Menefee of Charleston, SC.  Lead architect W.G. Clark eschewed the typical Southern vernacular of white columns and wide porches with rocking chairs.  Instead, the team channeled the architectural ruins that are found throughout the Low Country, emerging out of abandoned fields and ancient forests.  Once completed, The Inn at Middleton Place was recognized for its outstanding concept and design by the American Institute for Architecture (AIA) with its Honor Award, the profession’s highest accolade for individual buildings by American architects.

The Inn at Middleton Place

The rooms interiors, while spare, boast floor to ceiling windows, cypress paneling and wood burning fireplacesThe Inn at Middleton Place interior

The large bathrooms feature marble floors, innovative cypress storage and a two person tiled roman soaking tub.

The Inn at Middleton Place bath

Mr. H says: History never looks like history when you are living through it-Enjoy!

architecture charleston interior design

Reclaimed DesignWorks Charleston, SC

Reclaimed DesignWorks, recently held a holiday drop in their Charleston, SC showroom on East Bay Street.  This national company purveys “reclaimed” building materials found in old buildings across the United States and Canada.

Reclaimed DesignWorks saw display

Old-growth, antique wood is more dense and structurally stable than newly-harvested wood. Reclaimed DesignWorks recovers their wood from dismantled barns, farm houses and factories that have outgrown their usefulness.  These buildings are usually beyond repair and may have been abandoned.  Flooring, granary boards, roof rafters, floor joists and structural beams are some of the parts of a structure that their flooring is produced from.

Reclaimed DesignWorks Charleston showroom

In the Reclaimed DesignWorks Charleston showroom, reclaimed flooring and other antique building products are displayed in a finished state.

Reclaimed DesignWorks showroom

With additional showrooms in Denver, CO,  Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, and Nashville, TN, Reclaimed DesignWorks boasts an impressive client list including Starbucks, Whole Foods, Polo Ralph Lauren and Embassy Suites.  Locally their beautiful products can be in enjoyed at Prohibition, Crust Wood Fired Pizza and The Collective Coffee Company.

Wood Samples Reclaimed DesignWorks

Mr. H says: Something old can be timeless-Enjoy!

charleston design history

Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church

Through the years, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church has endured slavery, laws to prevent members from worshiping, and the destruction by white mobs.   It appears that nothing can keep this congregation from persevering as it opened it’s doors on Sunday after last weeks shooting deaths of nine members.

Founded in 1816, by abolitionist minister Morris Brown, it is the oldest AME church in the South. Known as “Mother Emanuel”, the wooden 1872 two-story church that was built on the present site on the north side of Calhoun Street.  After the Civil War, blacks were not welcome on the south side of what was then known as Boundary Street when the church was built.  That structure was destroyed in 1886 by the devastating Charleston earthquake.

1872 Wood Mother Emanuel Church

The present day Gothic Revival-style church with its impressive steeple was completed in 1891. With seats for 2,500, it is the largest African-American church in Charleston.   The brick church retains its original alter, communion rail, pews, and light fixtures and is one of only a few unaltered Victorian religious interiors in Charleston.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church circa 1910

Between 1949 to 1951, the magnificent brick structure with encircling marble panels was restored, redecorated and stuccoed.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston SC photo Cal Sr

Mother Emanuel AME Church Charleston photo: Steven Hyatt

Stained glass Emanel church

Many prominent figures have spoken at the church throughout the years, including Booker T. Washington in 1909, Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962 and Coretta Scott King in 1969.

King Center Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Emanuel AME

Mother Emanuel was placed onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and in 1989 lost its steeple when Hurricane Hugo battered the Charleston peninsula.

Emanuel A.M.E. Church 1989

Today, while a solemn testament to its recent horrors, be certain that Emanuel AME Church will persevere once more.

Emanuel AME Church

Mr. H says: We are twice armed if we fight with faith.

charleston color design history

Charleston Green

The development tale of the deep, nearly black Charleston Green color, spins like this:   During Reconstruction following the Civil War, Union troops sent buckets of black paint to the Holy City. Legend has it that residents of Charleston would not concede to using the color on their homes and in a defiant act added some yellow and green paint creating the city’s signature color.

Duron Charleston Green

This historic color can be seen around Charleston, mostly as an accent on shutters, doors, iron work and sometimes exterior trim.

Charleston Green French Doors photo: John Bessler

Garden accents are great way to utilize the color since the color looks black unless the sun hits it just right then you can appreciate the very deep green hue.

Arbor in Charleston Green

Many of the porch rockers and joggling boards in town sport the Charleston Green color

The Joggle Factory Charleston Green joggling board

Paint manufacture, Sherwin Williams,  features “historic Charleston green”  DCR099 in their Colors of Historic Charleston collection.

If you’d like to mix up your own batch of Charleston Green just as our Southern ancestors did, local tour guide Mrs. Jane Thornhill, has this recipe:

10 ounces black paint | 4 ounces green paint | 1/2 ounce yellow paint

Charleston green shutter

Mr. H says: The most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most-Enjoy!

charleston design history furniture

Charleston Rice Beds

Unique to Charleston in the late 18th century, the carved rice bed was distinct symbol of a plantation owner’s wealth.  The original design is often attributed to Charleston cabinetmaker, Thomas Elfe, who on commission crafted a bed whose four posts were carved with a depiction of a ripe grain of the rice plant.  Carolina Gold rice, along with tobacco and cotton, created immense wealth for Lowcountry plantation owners during the 18th Century.



Beds of the era were typically made by a team of artisans such as carpenters, lathe turners, and carvers.  Mahogany was the wood of choice for the wealthy planter, however cherry wood was used as well.  Rice beds were designed for a cooler sleeping environment during Charleston’s humid summers.  With the frame high off the ground and removable headboard, beds were moved to the center of the room to allow for better air circulation.   The tester, or top frame, was hung with mosquito netting in warmer months and heavier drapery in the winter, keeping the occupant warm.

Charleston Rice Bed with mosquito netting photo:  Jim Steinhart

In the Heyward-Washington house on Church Street, the Heyward family’s rice bed may have been the place that George Washington slept during the President’s week-long Charleston stay in 1791.

Heyward-Washington House Charleston Rice Bed

While locating an antique Charleston rice bed may be both difficult and costly, (one just sold at auction for $45,000) there are several mass production furniture makers such as American Drew and Kincaid that feature rice bed styles.

Estate worthy handmade rice beds can be found however at Mack S. Headley & Sons, a fourth generation, Virginia furniture maker.

Mack S. Headley & Sons Rice Bed

Theodore Alexander also produces an exquisite hand crafted rice bed in finely carved and figured mahogany

Theodore Alexander Middleton Rice Bed

Mr. H says: The most valuable antique is an old friend-Enjoy!

charleston outdoor living seasons

Charleston Summer Fun

Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina enjoying a perfect sunset, cold libations and delicious food at one of Crosby’s Dock Friday night parties.  On a recent evening we enjoyed the festive atmosphere at this quintessential Charleston locale.

Crosbys Dock Charleston South Carolina

Perched on the banks of Folly Creek, the iconic Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp, epitomizes the best of the Charleston Lowcountry’s seafood industry.

Crosbys  d

Generous plates of freshly caught seafood come straight from the dock into the rolling kitchen

Crosby's dock  Charleston South Carolina

Charming nautical decor enhances the rustic atmosphere on the dock

Crosby's dock Charleston South Carolina

Nautical decor

Bring your dancing shoes as the Friday night dock parties feature live music.  Tutus optional.

Crosby's Dock Party

The evening ended with this stunning sunset over Folly Creek.  Check their Facebook page for future dock party dates.

South Carolina Lowcountry sunset

Mr. H says: Time is marked by each sunrise and sunset whether or not you actually see it-Enjoy!

charleston outdoor living

Old Towne Creek Park Charleston

On a beautiful Spring Wednesday, we sipped wine and enjoyed a sneak peak at the unopened Old Towne Creek Park in West Ashley.  Located along the banks of Old Towne Creek, just across from Charles Towne Landing, lies this new Charleston County Park.

Old Towne Creek Park Charleston

Old Towne Creek Park Charleston

Owned by the Ravenel family for years, Ashem Farm, produced vegetables and soybeans on its 55 acres.   The property’s long time owner, Emily Ravenel Farrow, was born here in 1915 and established the St. Andrew’s Parish Riding Academy on the farm.  When Miss Em married John Ashby Farrow the farm was dubbed “Ashem,” a derivative of both their names.   The couple used the place as a country retreat from their grand manse, the William Gibbes House on historic South Battery.

Ashem Farm Charleston

Asham Farm Charleston

Asham Farm Charleston

While the West Ashley area developed around the property, Mrs. Farrow ensured the protection of the farm by forming a conservation easement to the Historic Charleston Foundation, protecting both the land and buildings.  The easement permanently limited the potential subdivision and development of the valuable acreage which she willed to the Lowcountry Open Land Trust.

Old Towne Creek Park Charleston

Old Towne Creek Park Charleston

Historic Charleston Foundation’s executive director, Kitty Robinson, said this of Miss Em:  “Mrs. Farrow loved Charleston. She loved the land. And she loved people. We can think of no greater tribute to her legacy than this: a public park that will allow future generations to experience the beauty and peace of the Lowcountry.”  A real lady, Miss Em passed away April 26, 2011 at the age of 96.  Check out the Lowcountry Land Trust’s interview with her here

Ashem Farm Charleston

Mr. H says:  The land, the air, and the planet is our legacy to our young-Enjoy!

architecture charleston interior design

Charleston Charms

In Charleston, we are well aware of our historic architectural heritage and the myriad of antique homes that are still being lived and loved in.  The peninsula of Charleston is crammed full of charming carriage houses, grand mansions, and multi colored row houses that make our city such a beautiful place.  However, at an event this week, in a private home that began life as a church, I started to think about other residential properties in town that were originally built with another purpose in mind.

J. Rhodes Interior Design

J. Rhodes Interior Design

Printer’s Row on East Bay Street was converted into condos in the 1980s but this building originally housed Walker, Evans and Cogswell, the printing company for the Confederacy.

In 2000, The old Murray Vocational School at 3 Chisolm Street was converted into condominiums.  Built in 1923, it was named for philanthropist Andrew Buist Murray.  Besides being a school the building once housed the offices of the Board of Education.

These are great examples of adaptive reuse of historic properties that would otherwise sit unloved and unused.

Mr. H says: Taste and wealth cannot transform a house into a home-that can only be achieved by the lives that it inhabit it-Enjoy!